For those of you who are new to CU at the Game, I would like to introduce you to “Stuart’s T.I.P.S.” for the game. Every week, I will break down the upcoming game, and the Buffs’ opponent, into four categories:

  • T – Talent. Quite simply, which team has the better horses.
  • I – Intangibles. Momentum, home field, weather – outside factors which will play a role in the outcome.
  • P – Preparation. Is either team coming off a short week? Are there injuries? A rivalry game the following week?
  • S – Statistics. If you follow CU at the Game, you know you are going to be inundated with stats.

With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at the Buffs’ opening game opponent, the Colorado State Rams.

T – Talent

Frankly, if this is a category in which the Buffs come in second behind the Rams, its time for Colorado fans to take up knitting. Colorado has had, does have, and always should have, more talent on the field. As we know all too well, however, talent does not always win out.

The 2009 season is no exception. The Rams are hurting in several key positions, and that should favor the Buffs on Sunday. Of primary concern for second-year head coach Steve Fairchild is the position of quarterback. As much as CU fans like to decry their quarterback quandary, in Ft. Collins the situation is worse. Senior Grant Stucker was named as the starter, replacing the departed Billy Farris, but that is only because there is little in the way of competition. Klay Kubiak is not ready to go (recovering from shoulder surgery), leaving Stucker to compete with a junior college transfer, Jon Eastman, who failed to impress, and a true freshman, Nico Ranieri.

Another area of concern for the Rams is running back, where the departure of Gartrell Johnson and Kyle Bell leaves the cupboard fairly bare. Junior John Mosure returns, but junior college transfer Leonard Moore may see some playing time early as there are few other options. “We’re farther away at quarterback and farther away at running back than I thought,” said Fairchild at the end of spring practice.

The one thing the Rams do have, though, is a seasoned offensive line, with four returning senior starters to make holes for the new running backs. There is also some returning talent at wide receiver, where second-team All-MWC wide-out Rashaun Greer is joined by promising sophomore T.J. Borcky.

On defense, there are also a number of question marks. The defensive line returns zero starters – none; nada; zip. Add to that the loss of star linebacker Ricky Brewer, who was suspended for the season for violations of undisclosed team rules, and you have some real issues. Sophomore linebacker Mychal Sisson, a MWC Freshman of the Year candidate last season, was to complement the talents of Brewer. Now, however, Sisson will have to be the focus of the defense. The secondary returns three starters, but does not have distinguished talent.

In short, the Rams should struggle to put points on the board against a team which can force them to pass, and should be hard pressed to stop a strong running attack on defense.

That should play well into the 2009 Colorado game plan.

I – Intangibles

As many of you know, I will give this edge to the Rams as long as the “Rocky Mountain Showdown” is played the first game of the season. The game represents a “no lose” scenario for the Rams of the Mountain West Conference. Lose, and there is no drop in expectations for the season. Win, and you get to brag for the next year about knocking off Big Brother in Boulder.

What makes it worse for Colorado is playing the game first is that it allows the CSU coaching staff to funnel a month’s worth of energy and game-planning into the game. If the game were to be played in the third or fourth week of the season (like Iowa and Iowa State do every year), there would be less time to install trick plays and gimmick alignments.

The moving of the game back to Boulder swings both ways. While it is always better to play at home than on a neutral field, the controversy over Colorado insisting on playing the 2009 game in Boulder will only add weight to the chip on the shoulder the Ram players will be carrying.

Finally, playing the game on Sunday, and at night, I believe favors the home team. Even though the Rams can practice at home, and will not have to travel far for the game, the pent up energy of having to wait an extra day to play is easier to deal with when home cooking is involved.

P – Preparation / Schedule

Even though this is the first game of the season for both teams, Colorado State has a decided advantage here. While the Rams are technically on the road, they will be home in their own beds Sunday night, with a home game next Saturday against Weber State from the Big Sky Conference. Meanwhile, the Buffs, while at home, must travel to play a Mid-American Conference opponent, Toledo, and must play the game on Friday. Colorado coaches, whether they will admit to it or not, have been forced to do some game-planning for the Toledo game when their energies could have been focused exclusively on Colorado State. The Ram coaches do not have such a dilemma. Game-planning for their home game Saturday against the Wildcats can wait until Monday.

There is also this when it comes to the schedule and preparation for the Rocky Mountain Showdown (though this could also be placed in the “Intangibles” category, above). The Buffs started out the 2008 season 3-0, but stumbled to a 5-7 finish, losing four of their last five games. Colorado State, meanwhile, opened 4-6, but won its last three games of the season, including a 40-35 win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.

While each season takes on its own dynamic, the Rams are coming into Boulder with confidence that only comes through winning.

S – Statistics

The Rams fared better than the Buffs in many statistical categories in 2008, but, as noted above, each season takes on its own character. Colorado State was 32nd in the nation in passing last season, but with no proven quality at quarterback in 2009, that figure should drop significantly. The statistic which should concern the CU faithful is that the Rams were also successful in running the ball last season, posting almost 150 yards/game. Yes, Johnson and Bell are gone, but with four senior offensive linemen returning, look for Colorado State to try and control the ball (and the game) with their rushing attack. The first game of the season will be a stout test of the Buffs’ rebuilt defensive line.

Fortunately for Colorado fans, the reverse will also hold true. The Colorado State defensive line lost all four starters, and their star linebacker, Ricky Brewer, is out for the season. Even with a seasoned defensive line of 2008, Colorado State ranked 102nd in rushing defense, giving up almost 200 yards/game. With the Colorado offense line jelling, and with Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott healthy (and anxious to prove themselves), look for the Buffs’ quarterback to spend much of the evening handing off.

Finally, there is the statistic which matters the most: W’s. Colorado lead the series 59-19-2. While most of the games in the past decade have been close, the fact is that the Buffs have won five of the last six in the series. Colorado State came thisclose to defeating the Buffs in Boulder in both 2004 and 2005, but once again, the fact is that the Rams have not left Folsom Field a winner since 1986. Colorado has won all six of the games played at home in the series since then, and should prevail once again in 2009.

4 Replies to “Preview – Colorado State”

  1. “What makes it worse for Colorado is playing the game first is that it allows the CSU coaching staff to funnel a month’s worth of energy and game-planning into the game. If the game were to be played in the third or fourth week of the season (like Iowa and Iowa State do every year), there would be less time to install trick plays and gimmick alignments.”

    So what trick plays did the Rams use this year? Was it the wacky pro formation, or the single back. I know once we threw the ball in the air. But which ones are you talking about? I do however remember the complete lack of respect for the Rams when Hawk went on 4th down in his own territory EARLY in the game.

    Just saying my piece. I hope the Buffs run the table the rest of the season! Great site btw – but that comment was dumb IMO.

    Go Buffs. (and of course the CSU RAMS!!)

  2. Loved the tips, and the site is great. Thanks Stuart.

    I look for our rb’s to rack up close to 300 yards a game for us to reach that
    8-10 win echelon.

  3. Stuart

    TIPS are great! CONGArats on the upgrades to your site. Looks AWESOME!
    For some reason, and for the first time in a few years, I’m not feeling nervous about this game. I think the Buffs just have too many horses for the Rammies. Now next week scares the bejeebers out of me. Short turnaround, cross country travel against a good home team in their opener.

    GO BUFFS!

  4. Stuart,

    Good analysis. It sounds like you are as nervous about this game as I am every year. I hate that we can make their season with one game and they have nothing to lose. Here’s hoping that our boys come out and take care of business like a Champion would.

    Phil

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